Ozeki Prediction Contest Winners: @GhostVindaloo & @davidaconrad

Congratulations to our Ozeki Prediction Contest winners! @GhostVindaloo and @davidaconrad correctly chose Goeido, Takayasu, and Takakeisho as the May Ozeki cohort…and in the right order.

A lot of interesting work has gone into crowd predictions of the future…particularly around financial markets but sports are more interesting, no? So with that in mind, way back in February, I asked Twitter and on the blog, how many ozeki will we have? It turns out, the crowd was right! I was way wrong, as usual, choosing 5. *DO NOT bring up yu-SHODAI. Terrible pun; even worse prediction.*

Entering Haru Basho, there was a lot of uncertainty around this, with Tochinoshin’s kadoban status, and two possible ozeki runs in the offing from recent Emperor’s Cup winners, Takakeisho & Tamawashi. Come to think of it, Tochinoshin may also qualify as a recent yusho winner, but with his injury clearly hampering his success and the inability to sit out January or March to heal, the probability of his demotion was high.

Though Tamawashi’s putative ozeki run was over after the first few days, Takakeisho’s promotion and Tochinoshin’s demotion came down to their epic senshuraku matchup in a spectacular winner-take-all fashion. Perhaps the “Super Unknown” of this banzuke lineup was the lineup order between Goeido and Takayasu, in which case hometown hero Goeido did not disappoint. He put together a great 12-wins to solidify his Ozeki 1 East status for May.

Congratulations to @GhostVindaloo and @davidaconrad for reading the tea leaves better than me, and wear your Tachiai swag proudly!

John Gunning on Hakuho

Japan Times

John Gunning has written another great piece for Japan Times, Dominant Hakuho continues to redefine greatness. In the article, he discusses the magnitude of Hakuho’s achievements and the preposterousness of the claims that they can be attributed to weaker competition. Here’s a snippet, but I highly recommend the whole thing.

In terms of pure numbers, there is no one that even comes close.

A few years ago, some German sumo fans compiled ELO-style ratings for sumo going back to the 1950s. A few different methods were used but all of them reached essentially the same conclusion — Hakuho is the best there has ever been, and by a significant margin.

The yokozuna passes the eye test as well, constantly adjusting his style of sumo over the years either to cope with age and injury or just to challenge himself and maintain his position at the head of the pack.

Takakeisho Ozeki Promotion Video

Takakeisho Promotion – Courtesy of NHK’s Twitter Feed

Through the magic of the internet, we bring you a brief clip courtesy of NHK of the actual ceremony where the sumo elders delivered the good news that Takakeisho had been promoted to Ozeki. Rather than deliver any kind of yojijukugo acceptance phrase, Takakeisho stuck to literal Japanese to express is commitment to sumo, to his new rank, and his stable. As per Herouth’s translation:

  • “Not to shame the title of Ozeki”
  • “Respect the spirit of Bushido”
  • “Always remember to be thankful and considerate”

While not compact, pithy and represented by 4 lovely characters, I do like the intent of his words. I hope he reigns well and long as an Ozeki, and extracts a never ending stream of white stars from everyone around him.

Folks are already wondering if he is on track for some kind of Yokozuna billet, and I will just say that these discussions are extremely premature. While I truly enjoy Takakeisho’s sumo, and I think the whole tadpole concept is interesting, he need to greatly diversify his sumo to be able to be a dominant Ozeki, let alone consider advancement.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I am keen to see what he comes up with. I think Takakeisho would very much like to try for higher rank, and he may find ways to surprise us.

Juryo for Natsu

Churanoumi accepting the Makushita yusho

The new promotions to Juryo have been announced (since these represent a change to sekitori status, they’re made public early, like Ozeki and Yokozuna promotions but unlike the rest of the banzuke, so that those promoted can appropriately prepare for their new rank).

The three rikishi joining the salaried ranks are: Ms1 Irodori, making his sekitori debut, Makushita yusho winner Ms5 Churanoumi, and M3 Seiro.

Although the corresponding demotions from Juryo are not announced until the full banzuke comes out, it is easy to read the tea leaves. Dropping down to Makushita in May will be J14 Daiseido (3-12), J13 Takanofuji (6-9), and J10 Wakamotoharu (5-10).

Here’s a shot at what the Natsu Juryo banzuke may look like (Makuuchi demotions in bold, Makushita promotions in italic). Toyonoshima and Ikioi should be able to return to Makuuchi quickly with winning records if they can fix what ailed them in Osaka, while Yutakayama and Chiyonokuni have longer roads ahead of them.

  East West
J1 Toyonoshima (M14w 5-10) Ikioi (M9w 2-13)
J2 Takagenji (J4e 8-7) Wakatakakage (J5e 8-7)
J3 Kyokushuho (J6e 8-7) Daiamami (J3w 7-8)
J4 Azumaryu (J7e 8-7) Takanosho (J13e 11-4)
J5 Sokokurai (J7w 8-7) Kotoyuki (J2e 5-10)
J6 Gagamaru (J8e 8-7) Hidenoumi (J10e 9-6)
J7 Kyokutaisei (J9e 8-7) Daishomaru (J5w 6-9)
J8 Yutakayama (M16w 3-12) Mitoryu (J12e 9-6)
J9 Tsurugisho (J6w 6-9) Choyonoumi (J8w 7-8)
J10 Chiyonokuni (M12e 0-0-15) Aminishiki (J11w 8-7)
J11 Arawashi (J12w 8-7) Kiribayama (J14w 9-6)
J12 Churanoumi (Ms5 7-0) Hakuyozan (J3e 3-7-5)
J13 Tobizaru (J11e 7-8) Irodori (Ms1e 5-2)
J14 Seiro (Ms3w 6-1) Akiseyama (J9w 5-10)

Update on Hakuho’s Injury

As you have all probably seen, Hakuho injured his arm in his match with Kakuryu on Haru Basho’s senshuraku. Injured to the extent that he could not lift the emperor’s cup and had to be assisted.

We may hear very little about this injury and his status, as the sumo world tends to be secretive about these things. Hakuho tends to be slightly more open about the state of his health, but only when he deems it appropriate. For example, in his post-yusho interview he revealed that he hurt his knee again on day 8 (fighting Tochiozan) and had to do day 9 and 10 on painkillers. In real time he was mum about this.

So at the moment, this is what we know: the injury is probably a muscle tear. It’s not clear whether complete or partial. The morning after the injury he has been able to lift the arm somewhat, but not to lift a glass of water.

Araiso oyakata – the former Kisenosato – wrote a basho summary for Sponichi, and had this to say about Hakuho’s injury:

The worrying part is the injury to his arm. I was on duty maintaining order during the yusho parade, and it must have been seriously painful, for him to say to me “It’s torn. Hurts, doesn’t it”?

I have my own experience with torn muscles. If the injury is grave, it becomes hard to produce power with it – it may drop to 80%, 90%.

The yokozuna has been able to bring himself back from his knee injury to a yusho-winning level, so he knows how to take care of himself, but this is a worrying development.

Araiso oyakata, Sponichi Annex

At first the media reported that the Yokozuna will undergo further examinations. But in his morning interviews, it turned out he did not visit the hospital. “I was told this injury may be healed through rest, so I’m going to take a break from sumo for a while and rest it”. He also said he will decide whether to join the Jungyo in a few days.

This statement from him is quite worrying, as a muscle tear needs to be treated soon after injury or the window of opportunity will be missed. Furthermore, I would have expected him at least to go to hospital and be thoroughly checked – undergo an MRI, at least.

To sum up:

  • Possible muscle tear.
  • Currently unable to lift even a glass of water.
  • If he was checked by professionals, it was not at any facility that offers imaging.
  • Currently resting his arm and hoping it will improve.

Tachiai will keep monitoring the situation and we will update you on any changes.